Former Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas got his tribute video, after all.
Returning to the Garden as a member of the Denver Nuggets Monday evening, Thomas was honored with a 90-second clip shown on the center-court video board during the first timeout of the first quarter. With co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, coach Brad Stevens, former teammates, and a full house of fans looking on, the video spliced together highlights with memorable quotes from Thomas’s tenure with the Celtics.
“Thank you, IT!” the screen read, as the crowd started an “I-T, I-T” chant.
While fans gave Thomas a standing ovation, several of his Nuggets teammates hugged him at the scorer’s table at the conclusion of the timeout.
— NBA (@NBA) March 19, 2019
Monday’s game marked Thomas’s second game back in Boston — the first in which he’s been active — since getting traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in August 2017. The Celtics initially planned to run a tribute video during his first game back in January 2018, when he was still recovering from a hip injury, but Thomas requested that the team postpone the airing so that he could enjoy the moment with his family.
The Celtics obliged, pushing the commemorative festivities to their next home game against the Cavs, Feb. 11, 2018, which also happened to be the date of 2008 NBA champion Paul Pierce’s jersey retirement ceremony. Though president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn’t appear to have a problem with the possibly competing honors, Pierce and former teammate Rajon Rondo expressed their displeasure with the decision. Thomas ultimately elected to forgo the video once again, in order to keep the attention on Pierce.
All the hubbub surrounding the day ended up being somewhat of a moot point, however, as Thomas was no longer a member of the Cavaliers by the time the game rolled around. Cleveland traded Thomas to the Los Angeles Lakers ahead of the trade deadline last season. Because the Lakers had already made their annual trip to Boston, a game this season was the earliest opportunity for the Celtics to show a tribute video.
Thomas told reporters before tip-off Monday he wouldn’t be upset if the Celtics didn’t end up showing one.
“I know the love is going to be everywhere in this building, so that means more to me than anything,” he said. “If they do do a tribute video, that would mean the world to me as well. I put my heart and soul on that floor each and every night. I tried to play great each and every night no matter what I was going through in my personal life. No matter what came at me, I was just trying to play hard for this city and this organization. Anything they show me tonight would be much appreciated.”
Isaiah Thomas finally got his tribute video. pic.twitter.com/fQBh3rIZKx
— Nicole Yang (@nicolecyang) March 18, 2019